Rocky VLT debate possible

Both sides in the video lottery terminal issue look forward to a debate if one is called on whether the machines should be returned to Rocky Mountain House.

Both sides in the video lottery terminal issue look forward to a debate if one is called on whether the machines should be returned to Rocky Mountain House.

Town council gave first reading to a bylaw last week which calls for a plebiscite to be held July 27 asking voters if they favour the return of the machines which were tossed out 12 years ago in a similar vote.

If accepted, the town would then be obligated to ask the province to return VLTs to businesses wanting them.

The plebiscite was called after an association of pub and tavern owners collected the necessary 10 per cent of town resident signatures on a petition.

The association collected more than 800 names among the town’s approximate 7,300 residents.

“If the churches want us to debate them we’re willing,” said association member Jim Pogson, manager of Duffer’s Pub.

Rev. Dale Hansen of the town’s ministerial association said he didn’t know of any planned debates yet but if one is organized the association will be prepared to talk.

Pogson said the sluggish economy is hurting business.

“The churches have no vested interest in any business in this town,” Pogson said.

He said pub association members are in a “survival” mode looking for business.

The association claims many former customers are leaving town to play VLT machines.

“You go to a casino in Red Deer or pubs in Eckville, Leslieville and Caroline and you’ll find Rocky people there,” Pogson said.

Hansen said the ministerial association has a meeting at the end of June to decide a course of action.

He said the media will be used to spread the word of the pitfalls and dangers of re-introducing VLTs.

Members will write letters to the editor of area newspapers and church members on mailing lists will receive information.

Pogson said the plebiscite date is irrelevant although some people have questioned the summer date.

“Is there any good time for a vote?” Pogson asked.

The association just wants a good turnout for the vote.

“We had the petitions and if everyone who signed it shows up to vote we should be OK.”

Hansen said the machines are not wanted.

He said examples of people resorting to crime to feed their gambling addictions are numerous.

Courts hear many cases of people stealing from employers or committing other crimes to obtain gambling money, he said.

“I’ve had many people come up to me expressing their concern about them (VLTs),” Hansen said.

Pogson said more jobs could be created if VLTs came back based on increased business.

“We could have five more jobs just between our pub and the Walking Eagle (Motor Inn),” he said.

In addition, some taverns have reduced hours for workers although they haven’t been laid off.

“Jobs are drying up out here,” he added.

VLT establishments receive 15 per cent of net sales from VLT.

The Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission said earlier there’s a three-year provincial waiting list to install VLTs.

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